May 23, 2013 7:59 PM by Lorraine Rivera
TUCSON - The Sun Tran community is mourning the loss of one of its long time drivers, who are known as coach operators.
John Akers, 64, was killed early Thursday morning while riding his bicycle to work, sheriff deputies said.
Akers, who would have turned 65 next week, was riding to the bus yard near I-10 and Prince Road from his home near Cardinal and Valencia roads. Fellow drivers say Akers would ride his bike every morning, "I guess he started riding his bicycle for his health you know, lost weight, felt better," said Richard Mejia who has been a driver for 25 years.
A spokeswoman for Sun Tran said Akers had been employed since May 1974.
Sheriff deputies say Akers was riding through the intersection of Mission and Irvington roads when he was hit by a compact car that left the scene. Witnesses gave first responders a description of the vehicle, which was later found on the northwest side near Ina and Mona Lisa roads.
Miguel Lopez has been riding the bus for 20 years, and though he didn't know Akers personally, said his death was tragic because drivers and passengers often build friendships, "for somebody to come out of nowhere and take your life when you lived for so long?"
Sun Tran employees were notified of his death Thursday afternoon. Margaret Noziglia who worked with Akers said his sudden death saddened the workforce, "I'm used to seeing him in the morning, I guess I won't be anymore. I'm in shock. Like I said he's a nice guy."
Many drivers said Akers had talked about retiring next year, "for me it's pretty said, you know, at my age and I start thinking you know about how he was close to retirement and then this happens," said Henry Sanchez.
Deputies say two men were in the vehicle when it hit Akers. One man was taken into custody and booked on a warrant for misdemeanor DUI. The second person has not been found.
The investigation continues as to appropriate charges for both.